“Tell me about your horse’s teeth”
This is one of the most important questions that we ask when helping horse owners improve their feeding program. For many people, maintaining teeth is just one of the things that is done yearly. Some horse owners don’t bother with it for years, some people never give it a thought.
So, why is this so important as it relates to diet?
There are several reasons.
First, the primary energy source in a horses diet is, or should be, roughage. Long hay or pasture fits the horse’s digestive system better than any other form of food. To properly digest that roughage in the hind gut, it needs to be properly chewed to make as much surface area as possible for the digestive process to extract every calorie. If a horse has hooks, ridges or other irritations in the mouth the pain that results just makes it hard to chew enough to allow proper digestion. The horse may eat just a much, but only chews enough to swallow it. As a result the roughage arrives in the hind gut in a form that simply can’t be properly processed. This means that a lot of the nutrition that should be available ends up on the ground behind the horse.
Your horse also only makes saliva when it chews. Most people don’t realize the massive amount of saliva a horse makes in a day if they have access to roughage and can comfortably chew it. Pain from unmanaged teeth means that the horse chews less and makes less saliva as a result. This is the natural buffer for the constant acid production in the stomach. Take that away, and your horse can become much more prone to ulcers.
When we see a horse on a proper diet that still get ulcers, we almost always find a problem causing pain in the mouth.
Feeding the best diet in the world does the horse little good if it can’t effectively digest it. Regular inspection and care of your horses teeth pays big dividends in the long run with better use of the diet that you bought and fed, and better health in general. So, “tell me about your horses teeth”